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Hedgeapple Hypothesis

Hypothesis: Hedgeapples can be a food source adjunct for our chickens in early spring/late winter.

Observation: For the past couple of years, I have noticed that the chickens go up the hill a little ways and eat the softened hedgeapples. The hedgeapples must be softened which is accomplished by the rain and snow over time. Cutting the hedgeapples seems to speed up the softening process.

Further Observation needed: We have collected much of the hedgeapples from our hill and brought them closer to the house and chickens for closer observation and inspection.

Hedeapples gathered November 2011 from the Sledding hill

A hedgeapple is a bright green bumpy fruit from the Osage Orange female tree, there is also a male tree that is needed for pollination. I’m not sure how the Osage Orange pollinates, but I am speculating that pollinators like honeybees must play a part. This year, we had a great apiary of bees and we have also had a huge harvest of hedgeapples (could be coincidental, I guess). Most places I have gone to to do research on the Hedgeapple states that they are non-edible, but that has not been my observation. It was just recently that I came across Green Deane’s opinion on the Hedgeapple. He says they are edible, you just may need to get pretty hungry to make the fermentation process to get to the ripened seeds worth the trouble to eat the seeds.

In my opinion, there is no way pioneers would have paid the amount of money they did to plant Osage Orange tree hedgerows on the property if the fruit weren’t useful in some way. I believe that our goats have even eaten softened hedgeapples (but, I don’t want to recommend that, because it sounds like animals such as horses and cows can be suffocated by choking on hedgeapples which is why the hedgeapples have been called inedible.)

So, the experiment will go on and I will document my chickens eating Hedgeapples as they soften. I would like to find more ways to feed my chickens with our local resources, so I am on the lookout and if anyone has any anecdotes, I would love to hear them. Thanks!

Here is a playlist of a couple of videos of the hedgeapples around our yard and some of the chickens:

My husband found some proof that at least one chicken finds the softened hedgeapples tasty!